Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Monday that it has found new evidence [HRW report] that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in at least four recent attacks targeting civilians. The groups said that local residents and activist in Khan Sheikhoun identified at least 92 people who likely died from chemical exposure. It also named three pieces of additional evidence to support the finding that the government has been committing crimes against humanity [ICC, Rome statute]
(1) Government warplanes appear to have dropped bombs with nerve agents on at least four occasions since December 12, including in Khan Sheikhoun; (2) The government’s use of helicopter-dropped chlorine-filled munitions has become more systematic; and (3) Government or pro-government ground-forces have started using improvised ground-launched munitions containing chlorine.
HRW called for the UN Security Council [official website] to “immediately adopt a resolution calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to fully cooperate” with OPCW [official website] investigators and “facilitate their unimpeded access to locations of chemical attacks.” The Syrian government has so far refused to fully cooperate with investigations concerning chemical weapons.
The war in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] continues to have a devastating impact, sparking action from many authorities and human rights groups. In Feburary, according to HRW, the Syrian government conducted [JURIST report] “coordinated chemical attacks” on rebel controlled portions of Aleppo. The same month, more than 13,000 prisoners were hanged [JURIST report] in extrajudicial executions over a 5-year period at Saydnaya prison. In December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] accused Syrian pro-government forces of going door to door and systematically killing civilians [JURIST report] in at least four Aleppo neighborhoods. In November HRW released a report stating that the practice of caging captured soldiers and civilians constitutes hostage-taking [JURIST report] and an outrage against their personal dignity. In October France opened a torture investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of the Syrian government under Assad in detention facilities. Additionally, Amnesty International released a report [JURIST report] in October detailing the possibility of war crimes in Syria.